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John 10 and double predestination

Updated: May 29, 2021

By Luke Lancaster

Certain believers in the "Reformed" position (sometimes called "Calvinism") will attempt to prove their doctrine of double predestination by referring to Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10). Such Christians will say that Jesus predestined some people (the sheep) to believe in Him and some people to disbelieve in Him. This He did without reference to their free will, it is claimed, but rather He just decided from the beginning of time arbitrarily who will follow Him and who will go to Hell. This is a misinterpretation of John 10, though.

Reformed believers will attempt to substantiate their claims by pointing out that Christ said to some unbelieving Jews, “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep” (John 10:25-26). This, it is claimed, indicates that some people were chosen to be His sheep, and that some were not, meaning that they were predestined for that fate. The Jewish people were predestined to Hell, according to this interpretation.

This interpretation is totally foreign to the context of John 10. Scripture scholar I. Howard Marshall notes that, "even in this context Jesus still urges his audience to believe [see John 10:38]." Those unbelieving Jews who were not apart of His sheep, Jesus still urges to believe. If they were predestined to go to Hell, then why would Jesus urge them to still believe? It would seem that they still had a free choice to accept Him. Their initial rejection of Him was due to their free choice, not due to predestination. Marshall continues, “it is…not because God did not give them the opportunity to be saved,” but because, “not everybody who hears responds to the offer with faith.”

Those who believe in Christ are currently Christ's sheep, it is not that they were certainly predestined and had no choice to reject Him. Similarly, those who are not Christ's sheep right now, could become Christ's sheep in the future, and that is why they are still urged to believe. God does predestine, but nobody knows who they are in this life. Only God knows, because He can see who will "persevere until the end" (Matt. 24:13). The Reformed interpretation falls flat when subjected to a contextual reading.

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